“Let the righteous smite me in kindness and reprove me; It is oil upon my head; do not let my head refuse it.” (Psalm 141:5)
When we face a temptation, what do we seek God for in that moment? Do we pray for strength to say “no”, or maybe the provision of “the way of escape” (1 Cor. 10:13), or is it clarity of mind to see what is real in the midst of the deceit of temptation (James 1:12-18)? While all of these are appropriate prayers, I would encourage us to include with it a prayer for the ministry of the church in our lives – a prayer that God would use the Body of Christ to help us remain pure in the midst of the temptation. Psalm 141 is a Psalm of David in which we are not given much background information and we are left to conjecture as to David’s specific circumstances as he pens this psalm. But the thing we are sure of is that it is a prayer of David’s as he faces temptation. What David does reveal for us is that there are sinful men seeking his demise, desiring to see his downfall, and that he is struggling to walk righteously in the midst of this circumstance. This Psalm is a prayer of David’s for help in time of temptation and in this prayer he asks God for help to remain pure. In Verse 5 he specifically asks God to use his God-fearing brothers and sister to help in that pursuit.
David understood the benefit of community in his pursuit of holiness and so he asked God for help. He asked God for “the righteous” to smite him and to reprove him. In other words, he was asking God to provide godly people who would “get into his kitchen” and challenge him when he began to go in a direction that was different than what God had intended. David understood that the confrontation might hurt, but that in the end, the reproof was an oil on his head or a healing agent. What I resonate with so completely is the next request; “Do not let my head refuse it.” Not only was he asking God for this help, but he understood that this type of medicine didn’t taste good, that it was unpleasant at the moment and that he might also “refuse” or reject or run from it. Proverbs 27:6; uses the phrase “Faithful are the wounds of a friend” to describe the unpleasantry of confrontation. In this verse, David prays to God that he would not refuse it. It is easy to pray to God to bring people into our lives to help us live a life pleasing to God but it is another thing to take the confrontation when it is administrated. I have had many opportunities in pastoral ministry to participate in premarital counseling and I always talk about how the spouse is God’s greatest tool to reach deep in the heart of the individual and confront sin. In this counsel I share that the husband and wife should praise God for this gift of their spouse and take full advantage of it. That is some of the greatest advise out there (even if I say so myself), until my spouse reaches deep into my heart and confronts my treasured sins. Oh, does that hurt! David here is praying that he will receive confrontation from righteous men and that then he would not refuse it.
The Bible is filled with the importance of the Body for our spiritual health. There are numerous “one another’s” that we are to participate in (over 100 uses of the Greek word translated “one another”). Hebrews 3:12-13 tells us that we need others to smite us and rebuke us because of the deceitfulness of sin; “Take care, brethren, that there not be in any one of you an evil, unbelieving heart that falls away from the living God. But encourage one another day after day, as long as it is still called ‘Today,’ so that none of you will be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.” Hebrews 10:24-25; directs us to “consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near.” We have blind spots in our lives and we need others to see clearly and share with us where and what we truly are. We must pray for brothers & sisters who will love us enough to confront and then we must pray that we receive the confrontation even if it is a difficult pill to swallow. We must establish relationships before the temptation arises in which a brother or sister has been given the permission to enter into our life and speak freely and honestly about what is seen.
As we seek to “present our lives as a living and holy sacrifice,” we must remember that we are dependent on God through prayer and co-dependent on His children through community to bring this spiritual service of worship (Romans 12:1-2). We must develop relationships that not only permit but encourage confrontation so that we can be victorious in our temptation. May God help us in our quest of holiness and may he use our church in that pursuit.